It seems meatballs are having their moment in the sun. Or should I say in the oven, or on our plates? Much like the fatigued cupcake has proven, you know when New Yorkers start lining up in droves for something, it’s a thing. Big or small. Swedish, Greek, or Italian. Nestled next to a heap of starch in the form of creamy potatoes or on top of old smoky all covered with cheese. Beef, turkey, pork, or lamb. We want to eat them. We will line up for them. Sadly for me, unlike my New York City counterpart, lining up at the Meatball Shop is not an option when little balls of perfectly seasoned meat are required. So to the kitchen I go.
Spaghetti and meatballs make regular appearances at our dinner table, as do little Greek lamb keftedes with fresh tzaziki, but Sweden had not made its way into the international ball rotation yet. That is until I received my September 2011 issue of Bon Appétit. A recipe for Swedish meatballs from NYC’s Smörgås Chef, combining beef, pork, and yes, bacon, made Sweden a tough competitor in my kitchen meatball Olympics. Perfectly seasoned with the nutty aroma of nutmeg and allspice, and bathed in a rich and creamy gravy, these little meat treats are perfect next to a heap of mashed potatoes. In my kitchen, proper mashed potatoes means put through a ricer, and mixed with plenty of melted butter and warm cream. With some buttered fresh peas on the side, and of course the essential IKEA lingonberry jam, Sweden is winning gold as of late. Like they weren’t already stylish and fabulous enough. I recommend enjoying with a side of Jens Lekman.
Swedish Meatball (from www.bonappetit.com)
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 1/3 cups low-salt beef stock, divided
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 cup minced onion
2 thick slices bacon, minced
1 pound ground beef
3/4 pound ground pork
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sour cream, whisked
Mix breadcrumbs and 1/3 cup stock in a small bowl. Set aside. Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer onion to a large bowl.
Wipe out pan and return to medium heat. Add bacon and cook until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to bowl with onion. (Reserve bacon fat.) Add next 8 ingredients to bowl with onion mixture, mixing with your hands to blend. Fold in breadcrumb mixture. Using a 1 Tbsp. measure, roll meat mixture into balls; transfer to a rimmed baking sheet.
Melt 1 Tbsp. butter with reserved bacon fat in a large heavy pot over medium-low heat. Working in 3 batches and adding 1 Tbsp. butter between batches, brown meatballs on all sides, about 6-8 minutes per batch. Transfer meatballs to a plate. Drain all but 2 Tbsp. drippings from pot. Whisk in flour until smooth paste forms. Stir in 2 cups stock; bring to a simmer, whisking often. Return meatballs to pot. Cover; simmer until meatballs are cooked, 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat, whisk in sour cream, and stir to coat meatballs.